• Fiona Prior

And when I love thee not …

Updated: Sep 1

I covered some of the most remarkable – or sensational – love affairs in history, last week so this week I thought I’d follow through with some of the more remarkable love affairs that turned to hatred.


Some of you may recognise the title above from Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.

Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee! And when I love thee not, chaos is come again ….”

You can almost hear the thunder and see the lightening strike across a blackened sky at this ominous statement made in jest by Othello to his beloved Desdemona comes to fruition, ending in the guiltless Desdemona’s death at his hands!


So, why do some love affairs turn so ugly? It is probably the reason that crimes of passion once held their own particular legal category in history. It was believed that passion and jealousy could lead to violent acts while in the throes of momentary insanity.

However, a crime of passion would not excuse one of the most appalling love offenders in history, Henry VIII. Surely, the most influential man of his time could have found a better solution than (willful and premeditated) murder of Anne Boleyn to appease his wandering eye and his syphilitic inability to sire a male child!?


Oh, how the world has changed. Can we imagine a time when murder and the creation of a new religion were considered valid solutions for dealing with the roving lust

and the infertility of a monarch?


Or, consider Australia’s own notorious Tilly Devine (1900 – 1970), a very flawed, powerful women who ruled Sydney’s underworld for a large portion of the early 20th Century. Unfortunately, Tilly's time of rule in no way furthered the case of feminism. Tilly shifted no paradigm; she just out-competed the male king-pins of the time in their own power games – that is, violence, greed and corruption including sly-grog, razor gangs, stand-over tactics, drug sales and prostitution. A busy and successful business woman was Ms Devine.


But back to love (sort of), Tilly shot her potential second husband in the leg a month before she married him. She either changed her mind about him after the shooting … or didn’t want him to get away! Who knows :)

As I’m mixing fiction and fact, I’ll draw your attention to Adrian Lyne’s ‘Fatal Attraction’ (1987) which was to become the highest grossing film of that year. Take one happily married, successful lawyer (Michael Douglas) and add an illicit weekend spent with a mysterious business woman (Glenn Close). What ensues is a terrifying psycho-drama with Close playing a blood-chillingly insane women, supposedly pushed over the edge by her mad infatuation with Douglas' character in the film. When in Mexico in the mid 90’s all my Mexican girlfriends told me that ‘Fatal Attraction’ had become compulsory ‘date night' viewing with potential partners.


In the ‘me too’ era and at a time when more and more damaging and unjust behaviour is being called out, stories and artefacts from our collective cultural history – in this case, its famous and infamous stories of passion – are a fascinating, if not astonishing study of aberrant behaviours in relation to historically accepted social norms and frameworks.


A university lecturer acquaintance laughs that he couldn’t put D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ on the syllabus these days. Students just would not ‘get it’ in a world of tinder, grinder, and very different social mores. And to think that just over 90 year’s ago it was banned on the grounds of obscenity.

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